by Schuyler Heuser, Leadership Louisville Class of 2014 –
Following our December Leadership Louisville day, I felt the need to go back to the books. Our focus was on education and how our community is preparing tomorrow’s workforce. The majority of our time was spent with Jefferson County Public Schools with a nod to higher education in relation to graduation rates.
According to Jefferson County Public School’s Vision 2015 Strategic Plan, “we are on the journey to become the best urban district in the nation.” We were presented with numerous facts and figures throughout the day. Two thoughts stand out to me. First, there is a lot of data out there. A lot. Second, how do we define “the best”? Is it the graduation rate? Is it the average ACT score? The College and Career Readiness Score? Percentage of Proficient and Distinguished students? Are we even speaking the same language when we compare? The Kentucky Department of Education makes it clear that we are making progress. However, it seems that we need more clarity around best in class as we compare our own scores year over year as well as our scores against other urban districts.
The College and Career Readiness score seems a good place to start. How well are our students prepared for their next step? The data seems to say “not well.” It’s great that the rate jumped from 34% in 2010 to 54% in 2013. Again, I recognize that there is progress. But only 54% are prepared? That is unacceptable. By definition the score covers those moving on to higher education and those who choose another path. It is true that adults with a bachelor’s degree on average earn almost twice as much as those with only a high school diploma. Does it take into account the amount of debt that he or she incurs along the way? Is additional funding the missing piece that will make a difference in our results?
Our tour of Jeffersontown High School with Dr. Marty Polio was impressive. He and his staff provide students with valuable skills that keep kids interested in staying in school. Many of those students receive industry certifications that can be stepping stones in furthering their formal education or providing the chance to immediately find a good paying job. It gives kids confidence and options.
The work that Jefferson County Public Education Foundation (JCPEF) is doing with Ford Next Generation Learning supports this approach. Private/public partnerships are invaluable in preparing students for careers and strengthening our local economy. I applaud Jim Allen, chair of the (JCPEF), and the business leaders for their efforts.
Overall, I seem to have more questions than answers when it comes to education. Looks like I have more studying to do myself!